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  Office of the Dean of Students -> Student Activities -> Demonstrations by Students

Demonstrations by Students

Students and student groups planning demonstrations need to consider policies and opportunities to make their events effective and safe, whether hosting a guest speaker, planning a march or organizing a protest. Amplified sound, distribution of literature, filming on campus, and security are just some of the details that students may need to prepare for when holding a demonstration. As a neutral party, Student Activities can help in coordinating logistics and ensuring compliance with university policies and the Institutional Rules. Email studentactivities@austin.utexas.edu or call 512-471-3065 for consultation and to reserve space as needed for the demonstration.

Expression at UT

Freedom of speech, expression and assembly are fundamental rights of all persons and are central to the mission of the university. In accordance with the Institutional Rules on Student Services and Activities Chapter 13, students, faculty, staff and the public have the right to assemble, speak and attempt to attract the attention of others. They also have the right to hear the speech of others when they choose to listen and to ignore the speech of others when they choose not to listen. Expressive activities are subject to time, place, and manner regulations.

Campus Demonstration Guidelines

PRACTICE

  • Assembling peacefully
  • Participating in meaningful discussions
  • Handing out flyers and brochures
  • Allowing a ten-foot perimeter of clearance around academic buildings
  • Respecting other demonstrators' ability to engage in speech and displaying messages without blocking the view of participants or causing the speaker to not be heard
  • Following university policies and procedures

AVOID

  • Blocking entrances and exits
  • Creating disruptions in buildings or at university events
  • Vandalizing campus
  • Engaging in physical violence or inciting others to take violent action
  • Using amplified sound (sound with volume increased by any electronic, mechanical, or moto-powered means) without reservation or outside of the designated amplified sound areas
  • Attempting to force other to view or listen to a message by coercion, badgering or intimidation

Masks are optional inside university buildings and outdoors. For individuals who are not fully vaccinated or have weakened immune systems, optional masking is recommended when inside university buildings, except when alone in a private office or cublicle. See the university's health behavior guidance for the most current information. Community members should maintain good hand hygiene by handwashing and having hand sanitizer readily available. Use the Protect Texas Together app for daily symptom screening. If you feel sick, please stay at home.

Alternate Demonstration Formats

Some alternate forms of peaceful expression that UT community members have engaged in include but are not limited to the following:

Online Formats
  • Use platforms like Zoom or Google Meet for educational events, meetings, vigils or to host a speaker with an alternative point of view
  • Use an online petition platform such as change.org
  • Use social media to host campaigns and involve supporters
Statements
  • Lettering writing campaign to a speaker, public representative, or a UT department or administrator
  • Writing an op-ed in campus or local publications such as the Daily Texan
  • Declarations of action and/or support by organizations
Other Formats
  • Donations or fundraising
  • Post signage at your home or dorm
  • Wearing of symbols
  • Contact the Graduate Student Assembly, Senate of College Councils and Student Government
  • Contact your state and federal representatives and senators

Frequently Asked Questions

   If someone is holding an event on campus, can I protest it?

Yes. A part of free speech and expression is the right to engage in peaceful, nonviolent protest. The university expects all who engage in protest to do so peacefully and safely.

   Can people who oppose a speaker's message use their own freedom of speech to shout down that speaker's message?

No. Freedom of speech does not give you permission to silence the speech of others by shouting, heckling or otherwise disrupting a speech to the point that the speaker cannot continue or that the audience can no longer listen. The free speech rights of the speaker would be violated. Intentionally disrupting a speaker may result in disciplinary sanctions or even criminal charges against the disruptive person.

   Can the university cancel an event if the campus community disagrees with the speaker's views?

No, the university cannot cancel an event based on the viewpoint of the speaker.

   What is considered disruption?

Any speech, expression or assembly conducted in a way that disrupts or interferes with university functions, authorized activities, pedestrian and vehicular traffic, and other expressive activities outlined in the Institutional Rules, Chapter 13.

   How do I protest at a meeting or event without disruption?

There are several methods. Some include

  • Holding cards which indicate disagreement (or agreement) with the speaker's points and views.
  • Staging a coordinated, quiet walk-out of a program or event.
  • Turning one's back on the speaker.
  • Holding signs which are not affixed to sticks or poles, and do not obstruct the view of others (stand/sit in the back of room or space).
   Can students camp or sleep overnight on campus?

No. Camping is not allowed on campus for the reasons of maintaining a clean, aesthetically pleasing, healthy and safe work, educational and learning environment.

   What if someone is offended by another person's speech?

Freedom of speech means that all views have a place for expression—even those that others may find offensive, hurtful or wrong. University community members who hear words they don't like are free to offer their own words in response, but they must always respect the rights of all speakers to share their views.

   What if someone feels physically threatened?

Call 911 in any emergency situation.

   As an event organizer, how can I prepare for a demonstration?

Contact Student Activities in advance to discuss planning and policies. Additionally, it's important to help prepare potential attendees for the event as well by sharing information in advance such as:

  • Eating a nutritious meal and drinking lots of water prior to the event / demonstration
  • Making signs with BIG, bold, legible letters and phrases that are not affixed to sticks and poles
  • Any chants for participants to learn in advance
  • Sharing agenda of speakers and, if applicable, if / where any marching will occur
  • Encouraging individuals not to attend if they are sick or high risk
  • Safety guidance
   What are the rules for members of the public and expressive activities?

Visit UT's Public Forum site to learn more about guidelines for members of the public. After reviewing the rules, individuals who are not a part of a UT registered student organization must complete the General Public Space Reservation Form.

If you have any other questions, email Student Activities at studentactivities@austin.utexas.edu.